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The Bulgarian consumer of media content is poor, sick, unhappy and politically indifferent

04 November 2014 / 20:11:08  GRReporter
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In late October, Bulgaria fell 13 positions in Reporters Without Borders’ rating of media freedom in the world. This trend is intensifying because Bulgaria ranked 87th in 2013 and 80th in 2012. Over the course of just two years, we have fallen 20 positions. Here it is worth mentioning that Greece keeps us company in the latest ranking, as it is only one position ahead of us, occupying the 99th place.

One of the numerous signs that something is going wrong with the media in Bulgaria is the fact that there was an attempt to monopolize the distribution of digital television in Bulgaria alone. Therefore, it is the only European Union member state against which the European Commission has started legal proceedings on such charges.

Hristo Grozev, who delivered a lecture at the conference "Media in Bulgaria: 25 Years Later", organized by New Bulgarian University, presented an interesting view on the relationship between the media behaviour of Bulgarians as consumers of news and the state of the media in our country.

The study reveals the "genetic code" of the media consumer that has emerged from the analysis of 56 different parameters. It used as a basis the statistical research carried out over the course of 12 years by the European Commission, which includes not only Member States but also countries like Russia, Ukraine, Israel. The statistical analysis shows that Bulgaria is extremely different from all other European countries in terms of media content consumption, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus and Portugal being the countries closest to us. At the other end of that difference is Switzerland. Israel and Slovenia also differ. Countries like Germany, France, the Scandinavian countries are similar in specificity and performance.

To understand what makes us so different from the profile of all other European countries we need to take a more detailed look into the different parameters that shape the profile of the Bulgarian consumer of news media content.

The first indicator is watching TV, regardless of the ways and technologies of distribution, and exclusive of online TV. Bulgaria ranks first in terms of this indicator and it is among the countries where 94% of people watch TV more than 3 hours every day. Sweden, Luxembourg, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and England are at the other extreme. The situation in Bulgaria is defined as "scary" and "dangerous" because it establishes a direct link between the duration of watching TV and the level of education - the more educated people are, the less they watch TV. The more unskilled the labour of a European citizen is, the more he or she watches TV.

At the same time, watching internet TV is the lowest in Bulgaria despite our claims that we have a fast connection and relatively large public access to the global network. The profile of the Internet TV consumer is virtually the opposite of the viewer that watches conventionally disseminated TV - consumers with higher education and status watch online TV the most.

The second indicator is listening to the radio. The radio is an interesting media as it is consumed in a different way, as a secondary media. Bulgaria has again the lowest rate of listening to the radio among all European countries. 5% of Bulgarians do not even have access to the radio, whereas in the majority of the European countries this percentage is zero. Only 22% of Bulgarians listen to the radio at least once daily. In Germany, Austria, Ireland, 70% of people do so. What is the profile of the radio consumer? The profile is similar to that of online TV consumers - people who frequently listen to the radio are well educated and have a well-paid job. The average radio listener is much healthier and much happier than the average citizen is. This is because, being a secondary media, the radio is being listened to by people who move more and are engaged in sports. Unfortunately, the last position of our country in terms of this indicator coincides with the data from all other analyzes, showing that Bulgarians are the sickest and most unhappy European citizens.

In terms of the indicator for daily consumption of print and online news editions, only Greece ranks after Bulgaria. Citizens of the Nordic and Western European countries use the press many times more than Bulgarian readers, the ratio being 75% in those countries compared to only 10% in Bulgaria. This indicator is directly and logically connected with financial wealth and the consumption of print news - the poorer a person is, the less he or she reads newspapers. Consequently, this leads to a lack of awareness in people with low social and economic status. The poorer strata of society rely on television and on free television at that to stay informed. The relationship between higher education and professional status applies with full force here as well.

Bulgaria is again at the bottom in using the Internet as a tool for information. Romania, Portugal and Hungary keep us company. It is interesting to see the situation with the use of social networks. Although we think in Bulgaria that we use social networks a lot, the reality is different and we are once again at the bottom of the ranking. Austria is among the countries that use social networks the least. However, the case there is not related to poverty but to cultural attitude towards social media. At the same time, Bulgarians have the highest percentage among users who extract news from social networks. This is quite alarming, because social networks are full of myths and unverified information. A variety of forms of manipulation of public opinion is rampant there as well.

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